Higher Education and Research Bill - Report (4th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 15th March 2017.

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Photo of Baroness Brown of Cambridge Baroness Brown of Cambridge Crossbench 6:45 pm, 15th March 2017

My Lords, I rise to move Amendment 166 and support the other amendments in this group, which focus primarily on ensuring that Innovate UK—a very important business-facing council which is joining a group of academic research councils in UKRI—retains its unique character, strong business focus and ability to act in different and innovative ways. Innovate UK is, for good reason, a very different organisation to the other research councils.

My Amendment 166 goes beyond the earlier proposal for senior independent members. I was delighted to hear the Minister’s response on that, and I very much welcome the approach he will take on senior independent members. My amendment proposes that Innovate UK retains a non-executive chair and that a person appointed to the role be a senior figure from business.

Most of Innovate UK’s funding goes to companies, not to universities or research institutes. This funding is used to support innovative and strongly product and process-focused research and demonstration. Innovate UK’s support has direct economic benefit and will be all the more critical as we exit the EU, with a change in relationship to the industry-focused programmes of Horizon 2020. Innovate needs to retain its strong business voice, both inside UKRI and, critically, also outside it. That voice will be very much amplified if Innovate is chaired by a leading industrial figure and has a majority of business members on the board. This is the purpose of Amendment 166.

Government Amendments 173 and 183 are enormously welcome, recognising the need for UKRI and Innovate to be able to provide a wide range of forms of support to new products and companies, which could include investing in and forming companies as well as giving grants and loans, reinforcing Innovate’s role in supporting UK business—as indicated in Amendment 183. I beg to move.